What is Plain English?
Plain English is clear, straightforward expression, using only as many words as are necessary. It is language that avoids obscurity, inflated vocabulary and convoluted sentence construction. It is not baby talk, nor is it a simplified version of the English language. Writers of plain English let their audience concentrate on the message instead of being distracted by complicated language. They make sure that their audience understands the message easily.
Professor Robert Eagleson
Plain English is Good English
The main goal in writing is to put your message across clearly and concisely. Readers want an effortless, readable and clear writing style. Plain English is clear English – it is simple and direct but not simplistic.
Write and Edit like a Professional
Newspapers such as the Washington Post or the Financial Times ; magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and The Economist; and best-selling books use the straightforward, plain English style. Why? Because professional writers and editors know a clear style helps their readers understand and absorb the information presented.
Newspaper subeditors spend around 90 percent of their time improving articles by cutting, simplifying and rearranging the words into a clearer style. Here’s a typical redraft of a press release where the subeditor is breaking the poor writing habits of the author, to produce a better and stronger writing style.
Plain English Checklist
Plain English editing and a professional editor’s skills are similar. Both use commonsense rules to guide them to produce a more concise, clearer style. The 10 most important editing principles are:
1. Think of your reader’s needs.
2. Organize your content well.
3. Write in a natural style as if you were talking to the reader.
4. Keep sentences short.
5. Use active verbs.
6. Be specific rather than general.
7. Cut all redundant words and phrases.
8. Use simpler words rather than complex words.
9. Cut down on jargon.
10. Edit vigorously.
Good Writing Comes from Strong Editing
The secret to becoming a better writer is to use these principles to edit your draft. Here is a typical business memo. Good editing, using these principles cuts its length by more than half and results in a clearer style.
Is plain English or plain language too simple for my readers?
No. Many people think plain writing means simplistic, boring or childish, but Plain English means clear English. Think of plain English editing as cutting out the complexity and redundancy in your writing to leave a clear, streamlined and flowing style your readers can understand effortlessly. It’s the writing style of the best professional writers and communicators.
Get your message across while keeping your individual style
Using plain English does not mean everyone’s writing must sound the same. Writers will express ideas differently, but all writing, especially business and government writing, must still be clear. Writing in plain English means keeping to commonsense principles to produce a clear document.
For writing punchy, effective text, even with your own whimsical style, look no further.
Good Software Guide (review of StyleWriter)
Variety comes from writers keeping to clear expression, but choosing different content, vocabulary, examples and analogies and so on.
Good editing simply removes the bad style habits so your individual writing style can shine through. There’s plenty of room for individual style, rhetoric and imaginative writing. So let StyleWriter help you get rid of your poor writing habits and let you express yourself in your own words.
Next: Who needs plain English?